Philosophy 14
Introduction to Philosophy: Metaphysics
Winter 2007

What, When, Where, Who

LectureTuTh 9:30-10:50 Cognitive Science Building 001Jonathan Cohen
Section 1M 12-12:50Center Hall 203Dale Dorsey
Section 2M4-4:50Center Hall 205Tarun Menon
Section 3Tu8:-8:50Center Hall 201Dale Dorsey
Section 4F 1-1:50Center Hall 207Tarun Menon

Office Hours

CohenHumanities and Social Sciences 8072Tu 1:30-3
DorseyHumanities and Social Sciences 7059F 2-3
MenonHumanities and Social Sciences 8037Tu 2:30-3:30


This course is an introduction to philosophy through the study of metaphysics -- roughly, the theory of what there is in the world. As such, the course will be devoted to fundamental questions about the world and our knowledge of it. What is matter? How is a priori knowledge possible? What does it mean for evidence to confirm a theory? In addressing these topics, we'll also discuss classic paradoxes involving truth, vagueness, space-time, and contradiction.

Course Requirements

Those taking the class for credit are expected to hand in three short (5-7) page papers. I shall hand out a list of topics for the papers before each is due. Grades will be determined on the basis of the three papers, and I'll use class participation as a way of deciding borderline cases.

Note that the third paper will count as your final exam: it will be due during exam week, so you'll have plenty of time after the end of official course instruction to complete it.

There will be no midterm for the course.

Required Texts

There are two required books for the course: Russell's Problems of Philosophy, and Sainsbury's Paradoxes (second edition). I'm told these books are available in the UCSD bookstore.

We'll also read Gettier's "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?", Analysis 23(6): 121-123.

Related Materials


Writing philosophy is difficult, and doing it well takes time and practice. And, indeed, one of the main goals of this course to is to give you practice with this sort of philosophical/argumentative writing. If you apply yourself, you will definitely improve at this specialized skill during the quarter.

I can't emphasize enough the importance of starting your writing early. The process of writing -- even if only starting with a half-baked idea -- will help you crystalize your thoughts and get clear on what you do and don't understand. That, in turn, will tell you what you need to do next to refine your ideas. Also, starting early allows you the (necessary) luxury of setting out, reconsidering, revising, and developing lines of thought. I would also recommend highly that you consult Jim Pryor's extremely useful advice on writing philosophical papers. Obviously, these materials are not designed for our writing assignments in particular, but the advice they give is generally sound and applicable.

And if there's something in the course that you don't understand, come see me (or one of the TAs) about it. Getting the issue cleared up sooner rather than later means that it won't create other problems for you, and will allow you more time to enjoy the warm glow of understanding. This is why God invented office hours. You've paid your tuition, so don't let material go over your head; come and get the education you deserve!